[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
Perfume in the VMS...?
One question I've wanted to evaluate for myself is: are the VMS' recipes
for medicines or for *perfumes*? My search swiftly lead to the medieval
perfume page on Stefan's Florilegium:-
A post there by Rose <rose@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> mentioned the "perfume book
of Caterina Sforza". Can anyone throw any light on this - is it fact,
fiction, or historical myth? :-/
Also: here are Jennifer Heise's very good herbal pages (some of which are
More history-of-perfume-related links:-
Finally, here's quite a different take on 15th Century men and women from
If you scroll down to the section on this page marked "FASHION", you'll see:-
Much attention was paid to looking after your appearance in the
Renaissance. The use of cosmetics almost became a science, and many were
the potions which specialists and perfumiers prepared for vain ladies and
elegant gentlemen. Essential elements of female beauty in the time of
Lorenzo were white skin, teeth and hands; black eyes, eyelashes, and
eyebrows; red lips, cheeks and nails; long hair, body and hands; small
mouth, waist and ankles; plus a round, dimpled chin, wide shoulders,
swollen breasts, and delicate lineaments. Of course, not all ladies
possessed all these prerequisites! To keep in form, and to improve their
looks, women resorted to a variety of recipes - which might be referred to
as 15th Century 'restoration' - such as those for women who wanted red or
black hair, or recipes for women who had red or unsmooth skin. In order to
soften hair, you should cut off the head and tail of a lizard, boil it in
ordinary oil, and then rub the result into your scalp. To perfume your hair
use dried roses, nutmeg, clove-pink, or cardamon dissolved in rose water;
as well as juice from coconuts, gladioli, tendrils and grapes, bread crumbs
and vinegar. To hide freckles they used almond paste mixed with a powder
obtained from irises. The same mixture could be used for the hands. The
prescription to lose weight, was bathing in seawater rendered balsamic by
the addition of an infusion of so-called 'hot' herbs; laurel, calamint,
absinth, and hyssop. More rounded figures rubbed themselves with cow dung
dissolved in good wine, and then went to saunas in order to sweat
abundantly. After this they had a good bath and went to bed.
For a complete bath, preferibly in autumn, hot water was required. Only
more recently did more frequent immersion in hot water become widespread
amongst the aristocracy. Bathing was often regarded more as a way to relax
rather than as a means to clean yourself; especially after a long journey.
Many ladies spent so much time in their bath that they were even served
meals whilst in the water. There were also public baths where, for a small
payment, it was possible to have a wash. In the morning, in fact, criers
would announce when the bath was ready. Saunas were generally frequented by
women of ill-repute, who helped make the customers' stay more pleasant.
Thus women in the era of the Medici, knew all the tricks necessary to make
themselves more attractive. They shaved off their eyebrows, and then drew a
a darker arch. They coloured their eyes and cheeks. With a touch of blue,
they highlighted the veins on their forehead, so as to emphasise the
transparency of their skin. In order to have soft hands they rubbed them
every evening with a paste made of malmsey wine, ambergris, civet and moss.
At night they wore gloves for protection.
Based on this single page, perhaps we can start to draw up a list of things
that urban women would have wanted herbal potions and lotions for:-
change of hair colour (red, black)
perfume for your hair
.....while not forgetting the more pharmaceutical end of the market...
ensure a male conception (by altering womb pH? suggested by Steve Ekwall)
ease period pains
ease morning sickness
ease hysteria (then thought to arise from the womb)
Cheers, .....Nick Pelling.....